Saint Agatha, virgin and martyr (Memorial)
The king said to Joab and the army commanders who were with him, "Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and take a census of the people, so that I may know how many there are." Joab reported to the king the number of those who had been recorded: in Israel there were eight hundred thousand soldiers able to draw the sword, and those of Judah were five hundred thousand.
But afterward, David was stricken to the heart because he had numbered the people. David said to the Lord, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, I pray you, take away the guilt of your servant; for I have done very foolishly." When David rose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, "Go and say to David: Thus says the Lord: Three things I offer you; choose one of them, and I will do it to you." So Gad came to David and told him; he asked him, "Shall three years of famine come to you on your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to the one who sent me." Then David said to Gad, "I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into human hands."
So the Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from that morning until the appointed time; and seventy thousand of the people died, from Dan to Beer-sheba. But when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented concerning the evil, and said to the angel who was bringing destruction among the people, "It is enough; now stay your hand." The angel of the Lord was then by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was destroying the people, he said to the Lord, "I alone have sinned, and I alone have doe wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father's house."
Happy the man whose offence is forgiven,
whose sin is remitted.
O happy the man to whom the Lord
imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no guile. (R./)
But now I have acknowledged my sins,
my guilt I did not hide.
I said: 'I will confess
my offence to the Lord.'
And you, Lord, have forgiven
the guilt of my sin. (R./)
So let every good man pray to you
in the time of need.
The floods of water may reach high
but him they shall not reach. (R./)
You are my hiding place, O Lord;
you save me from distress.
You surround me with cries of deliverance. (R./)
Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honour, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.
In a nasty flare-up of envy in Nazareth, the townspeople rejected Jesus. How did he deserve so much more wisdom than the rest of them, they ask. Why can he work miracles while they can not? It was a classic case of a prophet rejected by his own people. But such envy does harm to those who are ruled by it. It was a disaster for the Nazareth villagers; because of it “he could work no miracle there.” A close relative of envy is stubbornness, the inability to imagine that one might be wrong.
The Nazarenes were slow to recognize the wisdom of Jesus and his ministry to the sick and suffering. They should have known that God was working through him in a special way. Instead, he was too familiar to them; too ordinary. They knew his mother and his family. How could he be all that different to everyone else?
Familiarity breeds contempt, they say. We can be slow to recognize God’s grace and presence in the ordinary and the familiar. There is no need to go on distant pilgrimages, or out into space, to encounter the presence of God. It is all around us in the familiar, the humdrum and the ordinary. The gospel invites us to look around us with new eyes and with respect. The disrespect shown by the Nazarenes inhibited what Jesus could do for them. Recognising him gives the Lord a proper welcome to bless our lives
The story of King David’s census warns against excessive desire to control other people. It is not condemning every kind of census; after all the Book of Numbers records another census, undertaken with God’s blessing. It was the motive that spoiled this census since David’s purpose was to impose taxation and dominance. A census can be used for greater control, heavier taxation and affluence at the top. The ensuing plague is halted by David’s prayer, a prayer in which he accepts the blame and begs God to be merciful to those who have not done wrong. His spirit of responsibility brings healing to the disease.